It's time for a pitch contest entry.
This one is Son of a Pitch, and can be found here:
Title: A BRIEF ILLNESS
Age and Genre: Contemporary YA
Word Count: 65,000
Seventeen-year-old Rory Brooks meticulously planned out her entire summer: days at the lake and endless nights at bonfires with her best friend. Her perfectly arranged plans are derailed when her mother ships her off to Alaska for three months with her emotionally distant father and his new start-up family. Her summer is then obliterated when her grandmother Harriet, the only person on her dad’s side of the family she actually knows, has a massive stroke.
Rory is thrown into the role of part time caregiver for her grandmother. Then, in one of her more lucid moments, Gran asks Rory to find someone named "Ace." The only problem is, nobody seems to have heard of him, or they aren't admitting to it. With little more to go on than a box of old romance novels, an obituary citing “a brief illness,” as cause of death, and a folder full of short stories— Rory realizes that she knows hardly anything about her declining grandmother. With summer coming to an end, and Gran’s health rapidly declining, Rory enlists the help of Dylan—the romantic boy next door—to find out just who “Ace” is and why his secrets are worth keeping.
A Brief Illness is contemporary YA, with crossover potential. It is my first novel and complete at 65,000 words. I wrote this after finding a similar obituary for a family member, but I knew that the truth involved a death that was anything but brief. I was inspired to write a story about generations affected by war—about a man who suffered from war, but not at war. A Brief Illness deals with love, forgiveness, family, and finding oneself.
First 250 Words:
Yes, it's sooo beautiful, and sooo scenic. The air is clean, and the vast expanse of green trees and blue skies are the exact things you see in magazines. Alaska has never been that to me though. For me, it's always been the place I have to go every summer.
I checked my phone. Just twenty more minutes in the flight.
“Oh, I love Alaska. The landscape is just so beautiful—unbeatable if you ask me. Did I mention I was coming here to see my sister?”
Poor sister. That meant she was going to have to deal with—what was her name again? Trudy? Cindy? Nancy! It was Nancy, wasn’t it? She’d been invading my space for the entire flight, and I barely knew her. I could only imagine the treatment her poor sister was going to get.
“You did,” I said, pulling my headphones free of the tray-table in front of me.
I’ve been successfully avoiding Alaska since my dad remarried a couple of years ago. If his third marriage was anything like his second (tumultuous, out of control), then I didn’t want to be anywhere near him when that bomb went off.
Where my dad is concerned, the bomb always goes off.
Nancy was thumbing through her phone, invading my seat while she pushed an iPhone screen toward me. On it, a picture of a grey tabby cat.
It's been several years since I went to my first writers conference (through the Alaska Writers Guild). At the time, I was dabbling through my fifth awful draft of my second attempt at a book. What I learned is that writing a book is a lot of work--- seriously guys! LOTS of work.
I remember so vividly- listening in on all these panels where people discussed publishing (both traditional and self-publishing), and watching as writers talked and networked. With an eager heart I took in everything I could. Craft discussions, editors talking about what we should avoid, people discussing what they were there to talk about- their books and all the work that goes into it.
At the end of the conference, I remember feeling scorched.
Turned out, writing a book wasn't as simple as sitting at a table of college students in your Creative Writing 101 and having them tell you that your short story was "Epic".
Writing, for me has been a journey. Since I started (and sometimes stopped and restarted as we have to do), I've gotten married, had three kids, made a move from Colorado to Alaska, bought a house, said goodbye to my grandmother, helped care for my ailing grandfather, enjoyed countless experiences that had nothing to do with writing, but I always, always come back.
At this particular conference a writer named Marc Cameron (he writes the Jericho Quinn books), attributed a commonality among writers- to get this story out of you. It really stuck with me, and I found myself thinking about what he said one night when I should have been writing.
For so many of us, it is a need-often a selfish one. To tell a story we have crafted, babied, and rewritten a few times. To be omniscient to our character's every move and help them find their path and voice.
So for the past few years, through all the mess of life that is having and caring for young children, I have written a book-and one that I'm proud of.
This year, I'm going a conference prepared. I've researched like I never knew I had to for a chance to talk with agents that I will very likely never encounter again. I've reached out to other writers, learning what type of books they are working on. Most of all, I think that having a book ready and waiting is the biggest difference. I'm going, having utilized everything I got from the last conference and more.
I'm ready for you PNWA.
Where have I been?
So you finish a novel, and you think that's the big scary hard part- right? You have this book baby that you feel can finally stand on it's own two feet. Better yet- she wants to learn to walk.
I have three kids, I'm familiar with getting kids to walk. Under human baby circumstances you gently encourage them to explore and walking happens naturally. With your book baby, you have to hold onto their feet and basically do all the walking for them.
All of this is an exasperated way of saying that my free time (you know, where I can make it) is spent scanning agency websites, reading specifics on the agents, glancing through my twitter feed, and because I stumbled on it- obsessing over mswishlist.com.
In case you are wondering- MSWL stands for manuscript wishlist and it basically is a list of what agents are yearning for at any given time.
This website has been amazing to me- giving me tidbits on what agents might be looking for in their own voice, and the tweets offer insight to their personality as well. I have a running document with names of agents that I want to query, and added a few after going through every agent listed that is looking for YA. One of them, I emboldened because she seem like someone I wouldn't mind getting a cup of coffee with in addition to having an interest in a book similar to mine.
Just trying to be patient and make sure I teach my book baby to walk before running. So much to do. So much to research.
In other news- I think I might finally understand Twitter. I know... I know... I'm a late bloomer.
I've reached this point in the editing process where I was starting to get daunted by what I had in my book. Some great feedback from some beta-readers (and by great, I mean honest opinions about things I need to work on), had me wondering if I was ever going to "finish" my book.
I know there are some things about the book that need to get hammered out. That's why I gave it to beta-readers in the first place. That being said, nothing they have told me has really surprised me. Deep down, I know that there are some holes that need fixing.
Which leads me to my most recent read.
Story Fix by Larry Brooks.
Larry Brooks is a published author who also happens to coach and has a sensational career going around to conferences and teaching people how to fix the problems with their story. I read his book Story Fix per a suggestion of a friend.
Some books on writing are so dry or filled with concepts or ideas that I think are common knowledge. For example. I once read a book that said over and over to just sit down and write. Basically, convincing me that all things like plot, arc, characterization, etc were irrelevant if you weren't writing. That's true, but there was little more to offer than that mantra over and over. I can find that for free within just about any internet meme out there about writing.
Story Fix was transformative. Brooks doesn't offer to make the job of editing easier, but more clear. That's the best way to describe what happened here.
First, I started reading and became daunted with negative thoughts. "What if I read this book and it tells me that I don't know what I'm doing?" "I don't know what half of these twelve elements even mean, how am I going to write a book?" "I'm never going to get published!!!!"
After my "pre-test" if you will, he goes on to explain these twelve basic components in more detail.
Again, nothing surprised me, but it does help you step by step into checking off each individual component and helping you fix it. What I'm left with, after reading Story Fix in full, is a renewed sense of purpose with my novel, a fresh outlook, and an eagerness to edit.
I'd recommend this for anyone who has completed their first or second draft and doesn't know where to start editing/how to decide what needs editing.
Onwards and upwards-
So I wanted to go ahead and clarify a few things after my post yesterday, and talk a bit about my process thus far.
1) I did not WRITE 54,000 words in three days.
My goal this year for Camp NaNo was to finished editing my novel. I got started early, completing half of it before April even started. I was at about 42,000 disjointed words before I started this edit and I've ended with 54,117 words.
My first draft was in third person, had some major plot holes, and some extra characters/scenes that just flat out didn't need to be there. I liked the idea of them more than they were necessary.
So this spring, I've gone through the book point by point, writing several lists that had to do with plot and what needed to happen in what order in the book. I found this incredibly helpful. I started my novel using an outline, but as anyone who has written an outline knows- things change.
My revised outline (which I had been avoiding doing for some unknown reason- maybe I felt tied to the original?) was incredibly helpful. I went through Scrivener, getting rid of what I didn't need, and reorganizing my entire novel chapter by chapter. What I was left with was a clean and concise picture to go forward.
And go forward I did!
It was like a lightbulb had gone off for me. There was no stopping the inspiration that flowed.
So when I began Camp Nano, I was already halfway through my novel. I began with 42,000 but my goal was 60,000 (my best guess at what it would be when it was all said and done). The next three days (and I swear, I don't know how I did this because I had a multitude of other things going on and three kids)- went by q u i c k!
Before I knew it, I had my novel all set and pretty and ready to go.
So what now?
I have three steps.
So here's to me finishing up a good draft and hopefully finding my agent !
This one is for me because I know that no one is following this blog yet.
I finished my second draft this morning and I feel like I'm on cloud nine.
If you're unfamiliar with NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, it's in November), then you are likely unfamiliar with the less popular but equally as important Camp NaNoWriMo.
Unlike the 50,000 word requirement for the traditional month of November's write-a-thon, Camp Nano lets you make your own goals, set your own pace. This means that you can work an existing piece (perhaps your last NaNoWriMo edits, anyone?).
So, as expected, this month I'll be working on a 60,000 word piece. A Brief Illness (more info available here http://www.dantemedema.com/projects.html). Hopefully, at the end of the month I'll have an edited novel. My third cycle through, I think I'll be ready to send it out to some beta readers. (I'm looking at you Bri, Joe, Sanaa...)
A few things I am looking forward to:
A few things I am not looking forward to:
As of this morning I have 25,860 words left to edit on my novel. According to Camp Nano stats that is only 862 words to edit each day to meet my goal. The last few weeks I've been hitting hard with a great deal of momentum.
Wish me luck!
Yes, yes, so original. A writer with a blog. I'm adding this section here so that I can keep people up to date on what I'm doing, working on, crafting, and whatever else I seem to think of.
The other reason I want to start a blog is so that I can chronicle the journey I'm hoping to go on. Starting the process of really giving this book my all, and putting it out there for others to see. As I've mentioned in other places on this site, I will be seeking representation for my breakout novel, A Brief Illness. This will be a place where I can share things with all two of you who are interested (Hi Mom and Dad!) in the process of writing, editing, and *hopefully* getting published.
See you soon...